International Women's Day 2023: What does #CrackingtheCode mean to John Monash Scholars?
The theme of International Women's Day 2023 is #Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future. We speak to John Monash Scholars Dr Gemma Sharp, 2007 John Monash Scholar, Emily Ragus, 2021 Judith Neilson Foundation John Monash Scholar 'Cross Sectoral', and Freya Jansens, 2019 Roden Cutler NSW John Monash Scholar about their work in the gender equality space.
What is the current work you are doing in the gender equality space?
Gemma: I am very fortunate to be working in a number of ways in this space. The most recent is serving as the Senior Clinical Psychologist and Research Lead for the new Statewide Women's Mental Health Service which is a collaboration between Alfred Health and Ramsay Health Care. This service recognises the unique needs of women's psychological well-being across the lifespan.
Emily: Thanks to the generosity of the General Sir John Monash Foundation, I am currently based in South Africa, where I am completing the data collection phase of my PhD. This research is considering the role that climate change and environmental disasters have on perpetuating physical and social injuries. South Africa has some of the highest rates of gender based violence in the world, and at the same time, they are disproportionately impacted by climate change. Gendered roles and their subsequent inequalities, ensure that certain populations are more susceptible to these injuries as a result of climate change. My research is trying to understand this link, to see what factors interplay across these layered hazards. I hope that through my findings, this research will help health care systems prepare for the injuries that occur within environmental disasters, and to understand how gender influences these patterns of injury.
Freya: I am a policy adviser in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for the commonwealth government of Australia. I work in the Office for Women on women’s economic policy. Day to day as part of a policy team I do what’s called gender impact assessments on new policies which means looking at what the impacts of any given policy will be on the state of gender equality in Australia. I am also working on the National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality and represented the Office for Women at the OECD on gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting, both of which will help our Government make decisions to make gender equality a reality in Australia.
Why do you believe it is important for gender equality to be a priority?
Gemma: It benefits every aspect of society - makes for a safer and thriving community across the gender spectrum.
Emily: I don’t believe that you can have a fully functioning society, until you have reached gender equality. Australia continues to slide down the ladder of the World Economic Forum global gender gap, and currently we sit at 43rd. This scale looks at gender equality across a variety of areas from governmental representation, education and empowerment. This index is representative of our society as a whole, and shows that unfortunately we still have a long way to go to achieve equality. Without prioritising gender equality, Australian society as a whole misses out on economic growth, social cohesion and the representation of all voices that create our community. We ultimately will be a happier nation when we can get closer to becoming more equal.
Freya: Gender inequality for a country is like trying to drive with the handbrake still on. The current structure of our economy rests on outdated ideas. One of these ideas is who does care work and how much care work is worth. The financial value system in our economy does not reflect the value that care work creates and puts back in to the economy. Another of these ideas is leadership, access to that leadership, and what leaders look and sound like. Gender equality needs to be a priority because inequality holds everyone back and keeps these outdated ideas alive.
Regardless of gender, what qualities do you believe make up a successful leader?
Gemma: Integrity, empathy, authentic, brave.
Emily: In a time of such social fracturing across the world, from conflicts, climate change and the re-emergence of economies out of the COVID-19 restrictions, empathetic leadership is the key to reconnecting communities. By incorporating empathetic tools into an individual’s leadership approach, everyone feels seen, heard and comfortable to express themselves. They know that by being heard, action not just words will occur, as respect sits at the cornerstone of that relationship within that team. I have been in situations that have left me feeling unheard, and even unseen. This is why I believe empathy is the greatest tool to leadership, as it allows someone to recognise the position that you are in, and to alter the behavior of the whole team to make it more cohesive.
Freya: The ability to put yourself in others’ shoes, the courage to speak up on behalf of others, snd the humility to know that you need to always listen to others.
What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?
Gemma: You are likely to have a number of different careers in your lifetime - try to seek work that is in alignment with your personal values and gives you meaning.
Emily: Never be afraid to take an uncertain path. Choosing the direction that makes you the most curious is often fraught with self-doubt, however it ultimately ensures that you have a career that you are most passionate about. In saying this, people need to show empathy to themselves when it comes to their career. In today’s world, the expectation is that you will automatically have a fulfilling and outstanding career, which disregards the sacrifices and time it takes to build that career up. By being kind to yourself when you face challenges or setbacks within your career, these instances allow you to learn from those lessons and move forward into a direction that suits you best.
Freya: The most important thing is never be your own first no. Enough people will tell you no in your life so when you ask for something or apply for a job or seek investment, go as large as you want as if you were the one making the final decision. Do exactly what you want to do and build a team of family, friends and mentors to help you along the way.
Dr Gemma Sharp completed her MSc in the Department of Oncology at Cambridge University in 2010. Her research focused on identifying the cellular origin of the various types of breast cancers, and the tumour-initiating mechanisms employed by these cells. Since returning to Australia, Gemma has studied clinical psychology and completed a PhD in Clinical Psychology at Flinders University. She has a strong interest in body image and mental health research. Her PhD focused on women's motivations for female genital cosmetic surgery and the psychological outcomes of this surgery. She is a Senior Research Fellow and leads the Body Image Research Group at MAPrc. She also runs her own private clinical psychology practice in Melbourne where she specialises in the treatment of body image concerns, eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder.
Emily Ragus has dedicated her career to work towards a more equitable future. Currently based in South East Asia with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Emily teaches first aid and pandemic control measures to vulnerable groups as a Pre-Hospital Health Delegate. In 2016, Emily was part of the health response that was activated for a mass casualty event that occurred in the Indo-Pacific in which she noted the need for improved aeromedical cohesion with other responding agencies within a disaster. This led Emily to pursue, and subsequently awarded, the 2018 Winston Churchill fellowship. The research from her fellowship demonstrated to her the vulnerabilities that women face during a disaster. These same vulnerabilities have been witnessed throughout 2020, a year synonymous with health disasters which includes significant surges in domestic violence in Australia. With her John Monash Scholarship, Emily is completing a PhD in utilisation of gender empowerment theory within disasters promoting equality as a health diplomacy tool for Australia.
Freya Jansens recently completed her MBA at the University of Oxford as a John Monash Scholar, Rotary Global Grant Scholar, and a Forte Fellow. During her degree, Freya led the winning team in the Global Opportunities and Threats Oxford research competition, presenting a 'closed loop' fashion supply chain, integrating garment worker rights with the drive to increase the transition to sustainable materials. She also won the international Map the System systems thinking competition for her team's mapping of modern slavery and violence against women in Papua New Guinea. Her work currently focuses on using technology to create transparency in the fashion industry supply chain, while working at a policy level to address labour exploitation in global supply chains and transform Australia's Fashion Industry into a best practice model.